Poetry

Practice (An Auto Ethnographical Exercise)

TRIGGER WARNING: mentions of sexual assault and r*pe

Some content was supposed to be up already, but I made a mistake and the article basically did not save properly. As I write that article again, I thought I would post some past writings that I have done. One of my assignments in my last semester of undergrad consisted of writing an auto ethnography. An auto ethnography is a research method where they utilize personal experiences to describe and interpret cultural texts, feelings, emotions, practices, beliefs, and so on. Since this class was a theatre class, our task was to write a two page interaction with someone that we knew whether it was personally or not. One person chose AOC, another chose Cleopatra, and another chose an old friend that she hadn’t talked to in a while. A majority of the class picked people that they admired; people who inspired them to pursue the career that they are studying currently and people who encourage them to go follow their dreams, goals, and ambitions. I chose Eldridge Cleaver. I despise Eldridge Cleaver with a deep passion; with a fire that would make Hell bow down in submission. With little knowledge, this man might be seen as a progressive leader of the Black Panther Party, but in all honesty, he was a vile, acrimonious sociopath who resorted to unspeakable tactics in the name of equality. In his 1968 book, Soul On Ice, he details one of his strategies on how to fight against racism, white supremacy, and oppression. I was able to read a snippet of his book, and the utter disgust that overcame by body is one that I can’t quite find the words to describe yet. This man…if you want to call him that, was an avid rapist. He viewed rape as a pivotal tool when getting back at the white man and those who were victims under their power. In his book, he is quoted saying, “rape was an insurrectionary act. It delighted me that I was defying and trampling upon the white man’s law, upon his system of values, and that I was defiling his women.” He first started with black women, why? Because he said they were practice. Practice…like studying for a midterm exam. Practice…like perfecting your jump shot. Practice…these women were nothing to him. He was finally arrested for assault in 1958. During this time is when he started following Malcolm X. In his book, he calls himself a rapist. “I’m perfectly aware that I’m in prison, that I’m a Negro, that I’ve been a rapist, and that I have a Higher Uneducation.” (Cleaver) The amount of women that he attacked is unknown at this time, and probably will never be revealed. I cry for those women, as I know so many women who have been hurt in this way…I am one of those women myself. The fact that this man was a mouthpiece for the Black Panther Party is appalling. This repulsed me immensely, but I couldn’t help but think about his victims, especially those that share the same race as me. You see this monster years later fighting for justice, but he did that horrible thing to you? That’s where I got the inspiration to write my scene with him as the target. I wrote as if I was one of his victims, seeing him for the first time since my attack and since he started preaching the teachings of Malcolm X. I’ve learned so many things about our past black activists, abolitionists, and leaders…maybe that will be a post for another time? Without further ado, this is my auto ethnography title Practice.

PS…forgive me if the historical accuracy is skewed. Also, I want to state that I am not making light of the cruel and brutal acts that Eldridge Cleaver enacted. Thank you.

Practice

No…that isn’t who I think it is. He found me…how? Is he even looking for me? Get yourself together girl, he doesn’t care about you that much…he probably doesn’t remember your name. What would he want with me…again? You’re going to spend your whole life on the run buddy…not just from the pigs, but from your sanity; the so-called Messiah that lets us live another day. Lord knows you can never repent enough for what you’ve done, so don’t start now. As many times as I’ve cried and begged the God I prayed to in my youth; in Sunday’s best and pearl white doll socks, he ignores my pain…he won’t show any mercy to you..sick son of a ..no, stop it. In a way, I feel bad for you; I know…I know what it feels like to be on the run…but how can you run from yourself? That is him…oh my God…

*tears begin to well up in my eyes and my hands close into fists. I’m frozen as if the soles of my feet have cemented into the pavement* 

This man has had power over you for years, do you even know who you are anymore? You used to be Dara McGee, and now all you’re considered is one of his victims…is that who you want to be remembered as? IS THAT YOUR IDENTITY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE? Confront him, now. Do it…do it for you. It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t care; your words may not shift anything in that cold and desolate mind of his, but you need to be free. Free yourself…this is not the way to live your life. 

*I’m hesitant, but my body relaxes, the same way it did when I realized that I couldn’t stop him from what he did to me. The cement around my feet are no more as my tip toes toward him become steps, and then my steps become strolls, and then my strolls become strides. I’m done.* 

Some book you wrote, huh Eldridge? You call yourself an author now? 

*he whirls around so gracefully, almost like a ballerina. He doesn’t remember who I am. How many of us were there?* 

You don’t remember me, do you? I was one of your firsts. I was your so-called revolution…some poor black girl living on the other side of the tracks. I was nothing to you, but you lived there too…what does that say about you? We are the same flowers growing from the same flower pot, and you plucked my petals and cut my stem. I may not be a man, but I understand your pain…I bear the same flesh as you. When white people look at me, they cross the street in my path, they spit at me, they deem me as an abomination…I feel that pain too. I stood in solidarity with you…all my brethren, and to have one of my own do something like that to me…why aren’t you saying anything? Do you not feel bad about your actions? Insurrectionary act…kiss my ass. That was diabolical, sociopathic, psychopathic…crazy, just crazy. I read the book Eldridge, and you referred to me…my sisters…we were targets…no, what did you say in your book? Practice. Practice for the main target. Look here, those girls did not deserve what they got; as much as they probably hated us already, they did not deserve to be taken advantage of. No matter who you are; what walk of life you’ve trekked and where you call home, you do not deserve what happened to me; I wouldn’t wish it on the lowest, vilest creature alive. Hmm, so I guess that means I wouldn’t wish it on you I suppose. They think you are so brilliant Eldridge; they drank your words like gin….they are intoxicated. You really are a natural orator, I’ll give you that. I can see why the black community idolizes you, especially wayward, Fatherless black young men…how I fear for the young girls they’ll try to pursue. The way you see the world is frightening, but alas, we live in a frightening reality. You are right…no don’t walk away from me! You’re going to stand here and remember because I can never forget; you are going to listen. You are right about the world being unfair to our people, but why did you have to go along and be unfair with it? It’s already hard enough being a black woman. We are the Black Panther Party; we are the backbone of this organization; some of y’all just pick up the bullhorn when need be. How can you disrespect those who understand your plight the most? How can you see me as disposable? We gave birth to you; spent nine months growing you inside our womb, altering our bodies to make sure you make it here alright…some of us risking our lives. I’m afraid to ever share my body with another; giving life and creating it. Why? Just why!? You ruined my life, and the saddest thing is…you don’t care. Somehow, in that convoluted brain of yours, you think these actions were some radical protest…IS THIS WHAT YOU ARE TEACHING!? Are you proud of this? *laughs uncomfortably* This is your legacy now. Black Panther Party leader, visionary, radicalist…r–ist. I wish I could see you as all those great things others see you as, but I can’t, and you’ve ruined it for me and one day everybody else will see. I stand before my brothers in awe of the stories they bestow, only to think, have they done what Eldridge has done? You felt resentment over how white men used black women, huh? And you did the very same thing that they did to us, now tell me, how does that make sense? Do you want to dismantle racism and white supremacy? Do you really?  Do you want to be free from the white man? Or do you want to be just like him? What revenge did you need to get on me? What have I ever done to you? If that was my lot in life; a pin cushion for the black revolution, the Lord didn’t need to give that burden to me. Imagine how it feels to know that no one, not even the black man himself, loves us black women? NO ONE! I am hollow inside; my heart, my mind…what good is it to use now!?  Answer me that, Eldrige, what good is it? Nothing? The one thing I do have left is my voice, and you can’t match it? Answer me!…you are a coward, you know that!?  I don’t care what you’re doing for the betterment of black folk…YOU.ARE.A.COWARD! I pray people see you for who you are and everyone loses all the respect they ever had for you. You have to be one sick twisted mother f–ker if you think brutalizing me and other black women…women in general, is the best way of attaining revenge. There is nothing deeper to it; no symbolism, no bigger picture…you are deranged. Whether you have changed from your ways or not, that will always be embedded in your psyche. It kills me inside to know that I can’t do anything but cry; scream…pray that the Lord will end my suffering and lift the weights that crush my shoulders every single f–king day. I was just prey to you…and over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion why I was your target. It wasn’t the mid thigh length dress, or the way my hair was pulled back, showing off my cheekbone I inherited from my Mother’s side. It wasn’t any of that..mmm mmm. I know why you chose me…because you knew if you were going to r–e me…you’d get away with it. I can see that I have done nothing for you; this was probably a waste of your time, so I’ll go. Goodbye Mr. Cleaver…may God have mercy on your soul, well, if there still is one somewhere in there.

Sources:

Cleaver, Eldridge. 1968. Soul on Ice. Print 1999.

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Uncategorized

The “Push Through It” Mentality and Trying To Set Boundaries

I AM NOT A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL…YET

THIS IS ALL MY PERSONAL OPINION

When I take a moment to myself that isn’t considered relatively productive, I feel guilty. With every spa day, every Netflix movie marathon and unscheduled naptime, my brain does a 180 and turns on me; “stop wasting your time! What are you doing?” I think about all of the tasks that I could have been doing; maybe I could have started academically preparing for my next collegiate chapter, or applied to the jobs that are saved to my LinkedIn account…perhaps introduced myself to understanding the complex inter workings of organic chemistry, I don’t know, anything but relishing in enjoyment. Genuinely, when I am engaging in a morsel of anything that is considered fun…I can’t fully let myself be in that moment. When participating in productive activities, sometimes my body warns me that I have over exerted myself. I respond to this by ignoring it and continuing on. I’m not really sure where it stems from, and as a future mental health counselor, I’m pretty sure I am going to pinpoint the cause eventually…I’m going to have to. I never feel like I am doing enough, so I’ll stay up those extra hours jotting down notes while my eyes lower and my head begins to nod. I’ll be tempted to get in bed, but everyone knows that you’re basically asking for an early bedtime. Whether it’s work, school, or other obligations, when we are constantly trying to meet deadlines and exceed people’s expectations with our work and abilities without resting, we can easily burn ourselves out.

The idea behind burnout has developed for quite some time now, as there really is no standard definition of what burnout is, as well as a specific diagnostic criteria. When we typically categorize burn out, we think of exhaustion, fatigue, maybe some irritability, listlessness, and even depersonalization. With the series of events that we have gone through collectively…it wouldn’t be abnormal if a few of us experienced these characteristics, as well as others that are personal to us. For me, it feels like my body and my emotions go entirely numb. I don’t want to do anything or talk to anyone, but I try my best to ignore how my mind is reacting. The last two semesters of undergrad consisted of me flying into fits of panic as I tried to finish six classes, neglecting the fact that I was crying myself to sleep every night and eating as much as a snack maybe once a day. I was wearing myself thin, but I thought that was the right thing to do. As a society, a lot of the time we associate success and self worth based on our achievements, and how hard we strive to reach them. We’ve become slaves to this rise and grind culture; no matter who you are, where you’re from, if you aren’t actively being slaves to capitali…ahem, I meant “productive” members of society, you are wasting sweet precious time. Pushing yourself to the limit is seen as a badge of honor and admirable in the sense that you are literally driving yourself insane in the name of productivity. Being ready to work all the time is exhausting…trust me I’ve tried it. I was so present for other people, that I left myself the scraps; I had no energy to do anything for myself anymore. I’ve heard the question, “how can I give my all to others when I don’t give my all to myself?” all the time, and it is such a great question to ask and to be asked. Simply, you can’t! It’s impossible…no one person has that much energy.

As a black woman, I understand all too well the push through it mentality. We are expected to suffer and do so with a smile because apparently that is our nature. The Strong Black Woman stereotype is such a damaging one, as this notion is still being perpetuated in society. I will certainly write a article about this topic soon, as this topic deserves its own space. Of Haitian and Japanese heritage, Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open, and more recently Wimbledon, has caused some controversy. People couldn’t fathom someone at that high of a caliber putting their mental health at the forefront…how dare she? She knew what she was getting herself into, right? Those waves of anxiety she endures are going to have to take a back seat…just swing your racquet and interview like everyone else who plays tennis. Those are some comments that I have seen when discussing the issue and quite frankly, I wasn’t shocked. Boundaries are foreign to a lot of us; so many entitled individuals these days. The push through it mentality can be seen as a good thing at times. When there are desires and dreams that seem like they are too far to touch, sometimes pushing through your own naysaying and negativity can allow you to complete something wonderful. Pushing through can be a sign of great strength and great triumph, but we don’t necessarily need to take risks every chance we get; sometimes taking a breather is the real risk. If Naomi Osaka completely ignored her mental health, who’s to say what would happen? Who knows how this could have affected her long term. Maybe we aren’t record breaking tennis players, but I’m sure many of us can relate on a smaller scale. Maybe you’ve been asked to take on yet another project at work while you’re already working on three. Maybe you have been studying for your MCAT exam for eight hours straight and your starting to go cross-eyed from all the information on biochemical foundations and living systems you’re consuming. Maybe you’re about to see your in-laws who know that you and your partner are having trouble conceiving but always ask you why you guys don’t have children yet…you just don’t want to deal with it. So…if you have the ability to do so, don’t deal with it; put your foot down and set boundaries with others and with yourself.

Setting boundaries is something that I struggle with, so this post is basically a call out for me…by me. In the past, I have ignored crucial self reflection. Why? Because I want to imagine myself as this perfect person who never makes mistakes. Since that isn’t true, I am going to dive head first into my strengths…fine, and my weaknesses also…the very few that I possess. When it comes to setting boundaries, I fail to actually articulate them. I’ll create them in my head, for example, I don’t like when people yell at me. When people yell at me, I either shut down and cry or match that energy and yell back. Let’s say someone yells at me, and I am affected by that. Instead of telling the person that they crossed a line with me, I’ll just stop talking to them completely. I know that I have a hard time speaking up for myself, so I start small and specifically work on this issue. If an opportunity arises where I am able to stand up for something…I’ll take it, no matter how small it might be. In the past, I also used to take people setting boundaries with me as a personal attack, but now, I realize that everyone needs to protect themselves, and I should follow suit. I’ll practice setting boundaries on little things. “Hey, you want to grab drinks with me after work?” “I would love to, but I have some tasks I need to catch up on. Maybe some other time.” “You should buy the black shirt instead of the white one.” “That’s a cute shirt, but I really like the white one.” No is a boundary also; saying no is enough. Sometimes I don’t want to stress these boundaries, but I know that if I don’t continue practicing, it’s easy to slip back into old habits; be persistent. You may feel guilty at first, but once you realize how much easier your life is getting when not dealing with unnecessary bullsh*t, you’ll never want to quit. When setting boundaries, communication is key. I’m a Gemini with an air dominant natal chart…if you want to get something across to me, use your words and speak! When we set boundaries that are way too flexible, that can completely defeat the purpose of stating a boundary to begin with; be clear and concise. Going back to self reflection, one of the questions your ask yourself while reflecting is, “what are my wants and my needs?” I know that for me, I want someone who doesn’t interrupt me when I am speaking, and I need them to listen attentively to me. Maybe you need your friend to respect the fact that you require alone time and you want them to give you some space sometimes. Maybe in relationships, you need some form of communication daily and want your partner to sometimes cater to your love language. It may look different for us all, but everyone has something that they require…you have time to figure out what yours are. Of course, while being solid on your boundaries, respect other peoples as well.

Tying it back to the push through it mentality, setting boundaries with ourselves and others can help reduce burnout significantly. High stress levels result in the elevation of cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone. This can in turn create internal trauma in the body and result in many health problems. I have to remind myself that it is okay to take breaks and that it’s okay to say no until I cease to become guilty for it. You are in control of yourself, so handle yourself with care.

Featured photo: @rinnyriot

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Journaling

Life Update and Blog Continuation

Hey! How are you? Well, this is kind of awkward…l hope things have been good; long time no see. Life has been busy to say the least; completing a bachelors degree in the midst of a pandemic is a sure fire way to induce a week long depression…well, almost year long it seems like, huh? Throw a few panic attacks in there for fun. Once I complete these two college courses in the summer, I’ll begin preparing for the new journey that I will embark on in the coming months; graduate school. In the Fall of 2021, I will be a mental health counseling graduate student at Northwestern University…I know, I can’t believe it either. I won’t lie to you, I have been reading the congratulatory messages that people have been sending me on Facebook over and over again after I announced my decision, not to boost my ego, but as a mental pinching of my own skin…this is all still surreal to me; Northwestern has been a school I dreamed about attending ever since high school. Fourteen year old me is speechless, which was a rarity when I actually was that age. I hope to be able to document some of my graduate adventures, as well as some of the lessons that I will be taught. Of course, I will continue to write about current events and my two cents on them, as I enjoy doing the research for posts like those. I want to take my writing a bit more seriously, whether it be opinion editorial writing, features writing, interviews, or even more creative pursuits like short stories and poetry. The hiatus from my blog has made me realize a very simple fact about myself…I love writing. No matter how many people come across it, it’s something that I innately must do. When speaking becomes too onerous, writing words are there to soften the blow. Trying to piece together cohesive sentences off the top of your head can be monotonous. I feel this blog will be one of the only things to keep me sane during my time in graduate school; I hear these stories about the rigor of higher education and they terrify me. However, with the hooks and jabs I’ve dodged during Covid-19, I feel I can endure anything. Mentally, I am preparing myself, but it’s hard to do when you’re not sure what to expect. I know things that I was able to get away with in my undergraduate years won’t fly in graduate school; this is a whole different level. This is yet another part of my continuous self evolution, as 2020’s events have led me to want better for myself. At this time in my life, I am actually proud of myself…like honestly. I know what my dreams and aspirations are, and I am confident that I can reach them. I’m excited for the rest of the year, anxious, but excited. I am blessed to be able to move forward in the mental health field, as it is a passion of mine. I am only one person, but I am hopeful that I can help promote diversification within the profession, even if it is only amongst my fellow peers.

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Journaling

To Help Me Forget For A Little While…

I had a whole article written before I decided to scrap it and be completely transparent. In that one, I was talking about how I, the great mental health blogger that I am (I’m kidding), keeps calm during a time like this. I had bullet points on the basic things that people do like cook or take intermittent naps. I was going to make it seem like I was automatically processing everything correctly and in a healthy manner. I was going to make it seem like I had all the answers. As much as I would love to be the knower-of-all…I’m not…I’m human just like all of you. I ponder things religiously, and sometimes even after I’ve given every brain cell I have to try and connect how things operate, I still don’t understand. On top of quarantine and living through a pandemic, there have been some looming thoughts in my head. My Grandmother passed away about a month ago, and every time I think of her I begin to cry…I’m tearing up a little now that I mention it. My summer class just ended, my internship, something that I’m very grateful for, is relatively demanding, and I’m trying to write more content on this blog. Then, if that isn’t enough, take a look at the news! If you’re black or a person of color, hearing and seeing the stories of your people being slaughtered in the streets can psychologically distress the strongest person. At one point, Twitter was in a frenzy; exposing countless rapists and abusers around the country. Thoughts of my own attack flooded back to the corners of my brain like a dam. I relived that anger, that hopelessness, and that sense of sudden numbness. I remembered the people who told me it was my fault. Hearing someone say that an act you’ve never asked for is your identity strikes you like a freshly sharpened dagger…I don’t know how else to explain it. I’ve had crying spells where it felt like they would never stop; where my eyes would swell like a bee sting and wither like a drought. It was a lot, and I had to take a break from it all. 

I’m guilty when it comes to using my productivity as a means of feeling valuable. I also try to ignore any mental pain or fatigue that I feel because I think being perceived as strong is better than being stable. Today, I laid in bed, typed this, and watched Netflix, and I actually felt good about it. Usually, I would engage in some tender-loving self care for about thirty minutes, and then go right back to doing some type of assignment. If I tried to practice self care, I would immediately counteract it. I would surround myself with the countless messages swirling through the media that my life was not welcome and I have no place anywhere. As much as I am proud of people of all shades, cultures, religions, sexual orientations, genders, and so on coming together…it’s draining that we as a collective are still doing this. Black people and people of color deserve to be respected. Marginalized groups deserve to be loved. We deserve to live a long and healthy life. We don’t deserve this bloodshed. We don’t deserve to live in fear. I’m exhausted. I’ve had a headache for the last two days, and you can tell I’m stressed by the slew of pimples that have accumulated on my cheeks. My brain felt like it was swelling; I felt nothingness one minute and then every emotion known to man the next. I was going insane…staring at the wall and letting my thoughts run rampant insane. Enough was enough, I had to do something in order to regain and maintain some type of sanity. So…this is what I did. 

I started a new day and set my intentions. As crazy as the previous day might have been, this is a new one, and there is always a chance that this day will be better. First, I always give thanks to God and the universe that I am able to see this day. There are so many loved ones who didn’t, and I am grateful that my journey is to be continued. I am a firm believer in manifestation and prayer, and I honestly think that these two things have really saved me in terms of my mental health. The pen is mightier than a sword, but combining the power with a strong voice… you’re unstoppable. I am slacking on writing down my manifestations, so I need to get back into the swing of things. Sometimes just waking up and stating how you want your day to go will make you feel that much better. To piggyback off of giving thanks for waking up in the morning, I pray for the things that I would love to take place in my life, like me and my family being protected against evil forces sent to kill, steal, and destroy and achieving every goal that has been set. Then, I thank God for everything that has happened; that it happened, that I learned from it, and that I made it through. If I write down my prayers and manifestations, I always read them out loud. Never say negative thoughts aloud, or at least try not to. It’s normal for negative thoughts to come about, but don’t speak them or write them down. When you speak or write out negative thoughts, it is almost like you are decreeing them into existence.

I took deep breaths and tried to meditate…it is harder than it looks. As people, we are quite shallow breathers. As we mature into adulthood, we change the way we breathe. As infants and children, we all breathe deeper. We took big, extensive, belly moving breaths, and now we more so breathe with our chest. Try it; take a breath in through your nose for ten seconds, and then breathe out for ten out seconds through your mouth. I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot lighter. Your heart rate increases a little when you take a breath in, and slows down once you breathe out. When it comes to meditating, I have always had difficulty. I’ll roll my yoga mat out, get down, hit my criss-cross applesauce position, close my eyes, clench my thumb and pointer fingers together, and try to focus on one thought peacefully. I last probably for a good thirty seconds…I wish I was kidding. One thing I feel I need to work on is focusing on my breathing; remaining still and reminding myself that whatever I have to do will get done once my meditation session is over. Maybe one day I’ll be able to get past the minute mark. According to the Massachusetts General Hospital, breathing, mindfulness, and meditation changes brain regions that are associated with memory, empathy, stress, and sense of self like the brain’s gray matter. When I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, sometimes the simplest thing to do is to take a deep breath.

I drink water and eat fruits and vegetables. Water is my favorite beverage. It is the elixir of life. The fact that there are people around the world who don’t have access to water while there are people who freaking swim in it for a living is ridiculous to me. For those who have the privilege of having clean drinking water…don’t take it for granted and donate to give others the opportunity to have the same access. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine states that an adequate amount of water intake per day is between 11.5 cups and 15.5 cups. I have a gallon jug that I keep beside my bed. I try to drink half of it every day, and I’ve been keeping up with it. Water lubricates your joints and muscles. It helps cushion the brain and spinal cord…those are pretty important parts of your body. It helps eliminate waste, helps you stay energized, promotes healthier skin…the list goes on and on. Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, prevent some cancers, give you a beneficial dose of vitamins and minerals, and so many more factors. I know when given the opportunity to chow down on a donut versus a stalk of celery, it can be hard to choose the healthier option. It’s okay to indulge in some Krispy Kreme from time to time, but believe me, you will feel much better after gnawing on an apple. I’ve been eating a lot of peaches lately, as well as tomatoes, cucumbers, and baby carrots. When I’m craving a bowl of chips, I try to replace that with a mix of all three vegetables.

I pay a visit to my seven year old self. The reason I go back to my seven year old self is because that was the age when I started feeling insecure. Seven year old me was when I started to kind of lose the confidence I had. It took a few years to gain it back, and I know that little me would be beaming with joy. She would be proud of the things that I’ve accomplished. At the age of seven, I would give anything for my hair to be straight. All the other girls seemed to have their hair that way, and I wanted to be like them. My hair was straightened every four weeks until I was about eighteen years old. I was chubby, with a name no one pronounced right, glasses, and a gap in between my buck two front teeth. My two year anniversary of my big chop was last week, and I am currently rocking a growing fro. I would have never thought that I would be comfortable with my curls and coils. When I was younger, I wanted to be skinny and at least be the same height as my Dad, who stands at 5’9. I am six inches below that, and I’m about a size ten…well, during quarantine, I really have no idea what the hell I am. As shocked as she would be, she would be proud that I am happy with who I am. If I was able to speak with her, well, I wouldn’t speak at first. I would embrace her; the road that is ahead is treacherous, but beautiful at the same time. She learns so much about who she is, the flaws that she has and the things that she needs to exemplify and praise. She wouldn’t cry once being held because she thought tears were a sign of weakness, but I would, because I know it showcases quite a bit of strength to do so. I would tell her that I love her, despite that person telling her that no one didn’t. I would tell her to love herself more…and then more than that, and then more than that. I’d ask her how she’s feeling right now and maybe give her some advice on how to resolve it. I would tell her that being quirky and weird is what makes her special, and that she is not alone in the unique way that she thinks. What would you tell your younger self?

I fell back in love with things I used to enjoy doing. I’ve taken some of this time to just explore. I began to play the viola again. I played in a conservatory in high school. As I held the instrument in one hand and the bow in the other, I almost felt whole. I played The Swan, the 13th movement of Camille Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals. It is one of the prettiest pieces of music I think I’ve ever heard. When I listen to it, I envision myself in Paris…he is a French composer you know. As stupid as they may have sounded, I wrote songs and poems. I have a piano right across from my bed, and when I get an idea in my head, I’ll move my chair in front of my keyboard and just let my creative juices pour out onto the keys. For a lot of you creative folk, it may be hard right now to create. It was for me too, and I kind of pressured myself to make something that I deemed as worthy enough. Sometimes you find your best work within a dry spell, and I just created…whether it was good or bad. The act of writing poems or music was more so supposed to be therapeutic, and it was. Whether it made sense or not, I just wrote about what I felt. Art is such a good form of therapy, whether it be singing, dancing, drawing…anything. It made me realize that I want to incorporate more of those talents into my daily routine. If that made me feel better then, I’m hoping it will do so from day to day. 

Fine…I will include intermittent naps in here. Napping is one of my favorite past times. A nap has become an integral part of my daily routine, my only flaw is that a thirty minute nap will turn into a five hour snooze. Sleeping is crucial for your physical health. It rejuvenates you. It heals and repairs your heart and blood vessels. It can help improve concentration and productivity and help your immune system. In my case, sometimes I don’t know what to do, and I stress myself out trying to come up with an answer for whatever I’m going through. Sometimes the only thing I can do is take a nap, rest on it, and save the mental effort for another time. I got out of my house. Just sitting outside on my porch letting the sun hit my face can be the therapy I need. I watch the trees sway back and forth as they waltz with the leaves. The fresh air reinvigorates my senses, and I picture myself in different scenes of nature. I was on a beach in California. I watched the snow fall in the Poconos. I rode bikes down the streets of Toledo…I was there. I go to my happy places, whether they be close by like my Grandma’s room, or somewhere on the other side of the world like the time I made paella in Barcelona. I appreciated the things that nature does for us; offers us sunlight, nourishes our plants and crops, gives us shade and oxygen…I am so grateful for these scenes.

Don’t batter and abuse yourself; pushing your brain to the brink of insanity. No matter what, your mental health is important. When your mental health is in the right place, your body follows suit. We all thank you for your continuous fight in trying to end racism and white supremacy. We all thank you for working hard and making moves in your career. We all thank you for risking your life to help others. We all thank you for being here another day, but sometimes those days can be too much. It’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to feel joy during this time. You need to remember the good things that life can offer, and we want you to be here when these good things finally come about.

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Facts and Opinions

How Power Is Abused: The Stanford Prison Experiment

“Not all cops are bad.” I think I’ve seen this comment underneath every Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter post calling out the police for their mistreatment of black people. While some may see it as a reminder that there are actually allies on the force, I kind of see it as a way to deter the conversation that we are really trying to focus on; the unjust treatment of black people within the African Diaspora. Once you contribute to a system that was founded on corruption and continuously uses barbaric and brutal force to enforce the law, which too many times results in death…yeah, hate to tell you, but it’s kind of hard to distinguish a so called good cop from the roster of officers that are deemed unfit to serve. A profession that was put in place to ensure the well being of their citizens isn’t doing such a great job, huh? I see peaceful protests in countless cities turn into a potential bloodbath when the police begin to grow agitated. Tear gas is being thrown at the people with no justice, and in turn, resulting in a lack of peace. Rubber bullets are ricocheting off of people’s body parts, leaving scars and bruises as a reminder of the side of history they were on. The people, the ones that are labeled as these dangerous animalistic delinquents, are fighting back against the system that tells society that black people are replaceable and expendable. What do the police expect? Disturb the peace…and you’ll get what you’re asking for. Having your authority challenged doesn’t feel too good, does it officers? You’re not as invincible as you think. You’re no better than anybody else. A badge is not a personality trait, but beating a young woman with a baton when her only weapon is a piece of cardboard is; says a lot about yourself. What are they so afraid of? Is your quota really that important? Do you need more money for your donut fund? Okay, now I’m getting off topic, but honestly! You know exerting an inexplicable amount of force upon an unarmed person, or any person for that matter, is wrong. You know battering and bruising people until their choking on their own blood and spitting out teeth is wrong. You obviously know that murder is wrong…yet, you do it anyways, and are filmed doing it…and you don’t care! I want to strangle the people that insist that this isn’t a race issue. There were predominantly white people protesting the rules put in place on what you can and cannot do during COVID-19 a few weeks ago. A pandemic was being protested! What did you think you all would do…scare the virus away? “Oh, you want a haircut. Well I’m so sorry young white man, let me just magically disappear and stop infecting people. You won.” You’re smart, you already know why nothing happened to them during their protests…you know.

Anyways, it always made me wonder why the police think they are so much better than everyone else; black people to be more specific. The black cops within police precincts probably think that these white cops are their brothers, but little do they know how they really feel about them. Or even worse! They know that their counterparts think little of them, and they play bystander, or think they are superior because of the position of power that they have. Hmmm…position of power, let’s think about this for a second. It makes sense, right? Black people and other minorities don’t have much say, hence the events that are taking place currently. Due to that, cops take advantage of the so called power they have over minorities. The law enforcement privilege is one thing, but if you’re white on top of that, that’s two privileges in one. When placed in this position, your true colors begin to bleed through. Those whose voices are muffled, what will you do exemplify them? So many officers abuse the power that they have, why? Why do people tend to misuse what is given to them?

The Stanford Prison Experiment was a six day long social psychology experiment that began August 14, 1971, and ended…well, six days later on August 20, 1971. The experiment was led by Stanford University Professor Philip Zimbardo. Zimbardo had an idea to examine and expose the source of abusive behavior in the prison system. He converted a basement within the Stanford University psychology building into a mock prison and put out an advertisement asking for volunteers to participate in his plan. Around 75 people responded. These people were then examined through personality testing and diagnostic interviews, and through a careful process of elimination, 24 young men were chosen. These men were considered the most mentally sane and stable…if only they knew what they were getting themselves into. Eventually, a few dropped out of the experiment before it started, leaving 21 participants to be assigned guard or prisoner roles at random. There were ten prisoners, and eleven guards in total. Let the experiment begin. The men assigned as prisoners were hit with a rude awakening on the first day of the experiment. They were forced out of their houses, arrested, taken to an actual police station, fingerprinted, and charged. Blindfolds were put over their eyes as they were transported like cattle to the mock prison Zimbardo and his team designed. They were stripped naked, hosed down, had their personal belongings taken from then, and were locked away in their makeshift cells. They were dressed in prison uniforms, having chains wrapped around their ankles, and only referred to as a number and not their names. Imagine how dehumanizing that is…you’re not Brett, or Ashley, or Imani…you’re Number 34, 56, and 8. Guards however were treated like kings compared to the prisoners. They were given nice, ironed out, clean khaki clothes to wear, and were supplied with whistles, hand cuffs, and billy clubs. They slid sunglasses over their eyes so they would come of even more cold and distant; you can’t look them directly in the eye. Dave Eshelman, one of the guards in the experiment years later in an interview stated that it was like a mask; allowing a person to behave in ways that you wouldn’t if your identity was more apparent. Although no physical violence was allowed, the guards could do whatever they saw fit to the prisoners in terms of punishment.

As soon as the experiment begins, the guards had no problem assimilating into their new roles. They were targeting and harassing the prisoners, taunting them and waking them up out of their sleep; blowing whistles in their ears and screaming obscenities from the top of their lungs. Sounds familiar right? Where have we heard and or seen that before? Anyways, this traumatized the prisoners, and soon they began to mold into the roles that were placed upon them too…but that didn’t last long. They took the rules of the prison quite seriously in the beginning. Some of them even turned their backs on some of the other prisoners if they seemed like they weren’t following instruction. Because the guards had the power to do so, they made the prisoners their own personal puppets. They would give them these asinine tasks to do like marching in place or jumping jacks just because. The power imbalance was apparent, and the guards made no effort to make it even. Let’s compare this to the countless police brutality incidents that we have seen in our communities and on social media, as well as the cases that have not been exposed. These police officer know that no matter what they do, they will be protected, especially if they are white. So what if they abuse their power, no one is going to do anything, right? Well…so they think.

By the second day, the prisoners were already tired of being seen and treated like they weren’t human beings. They rebelled! They ripped off the numbers on their uniforms and pushed their beds against the door, locking themselves in. They were fed up after a day, think about being fed up after 400 years. The guards were stunned by the revolts, so they brought in back up to restrain the cranky prisoners. The guards then started retaliating. They unleashed chilling carbon dioxide of their fire extinguishers, breaking into the prisoners’ cells. They stripped them naked, tormented them, and removed their beds. The most rebellious prisoners was placed in solitary confinement to try and disrupt their solidarity. Some of the more obedient prisoners were granted special privileges, well, as special as special can get in prison. They were able to eat special meals, while the rest of the inmates didn’t even get a chance to eat; they lost that right. The prisoners solely relied on the guards for everything, and the more dependent the inmates became, the more the guards abused their privilege.

Prisoner 8612 was the first person to suffer a mental breakdown, demanding to be freed from the experiment. Eshelman stated that he didn’t think that him and the rest of the guards had that type of authority to make others react in a way like Prisoner 8612; he thought they were faking it or weak. Moving into the third and fourth day, things began to escalate even more. Guards would make prisoners clean toilets with their bare hands. They would mercilessly taunt them, degrade them in front of one another, it was very unusual; the punishments even grew sexual. Through the minds of the guards, they knew that many men had some insecurities when it came to sex, so they wanted to play on those fears. More prisoners began to break down as the experiment progressed; the next victim being Prisoner 819. After breaking down, crying uncontrollably and going into hysterics, the other prisoners were instructed to chant about how bad of a prisoner he was and how because of his actions, everyone else had to suffer. Prisoner 819 could hear all of this, and when psychologists tried to get him to leave he refused because he didn’t want to be labeled as a worse prisoner than he already was considered. Philip Zimbardo had enough, and he could see that the other participants did too. A two week long experiment turned into six days. The guards removed their khakis, their sunglasses, and returned their billy clubs, while the prisoners were able to be human again.

The experiment wasn’t just a means of torture, it was a lesson. Zimbardo in an interview stated that him and his psychologists begged the question of what happens when you take seemingly normal people and put them in a negative place. Does the goodness of humanity overcome the bad place, or does the bad situation influence the people and their thinking? We as human beings can be fickle. When people are given a position of authority, they act in a way that they normally wouldn’t. Why? Because they can! What were the underprivileged going to do? What could they do? In America, black people and people of color are seen just like these prisoners. They aren’t treated like people, but instead of referring to them as a number, they are their skin color, their features, their socioeconomic status, and so many other factors that shouldn’t evoke judgement. The justice system dehumanizes them as soon as they look at them. They aren’t friends, family members, neighbors, teachers, students, mentors, athletes…they’re criminals, thugs, nuisances, and targets. The guards worked together to psychologically humiliate the prisoners because they all had the same privilege, and they didn’t want the prisoners deviating from their role. Those cops do the same thing. When they see others with their uniforms and their badges, they immediately follow a code; they have the upper hand. Zimbardo, acting somewhat as the prison warden, could have stopped the experiment at any given time, but he watched the turmoil go on for six days…he allowed the guards to abuse the prisoners. In a way, Zimbardo was somewhat like the government. We are being treated like degenerates by people with higher authority, and the government is just watching. When the prisoners lashed out and fought back against the experiment and Zimbardo, he let them leave. That’s what we are doing now…we are trying to leave. We are trying to leave a system that was founded on racism and white supremacy. We are trying to leave oppression. We are trying to leave police brutality. We are trying to leave it behind; leave it behind and never return to it. We are trying to leave black women and men dying before their time because they were doing something as innocent as walking down the street at the wrong place at the wrong time…behind. We’ve got to make our voices heard, if not by physically opening up our mouths and speaking, by donating, by signing petitions, by being supportive, by listening, voting people out who perpetuate the system…by being apart of something greater. Opening up my news feed and seeing people coming together, no matter what race, religion, or gender is inspiring; it’s what we need to progress. If we keep going…who knows? We may actually get a chance to see justice prevail.

Sources-

https://www.simplypsychology.org/zimbardo.html

Shout out to @cowgrlmami for the idea behind this article

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Journaling

Today’s Manifestations: For Our Health…

With the Coronavirus causing people all around the world to panic, I think it’s time for some healing prayers and manifestations. There isn’t enough information on the virus, so no one really knows what its true impact could be. All I know is that we need to stay safe and serious about our health. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, carry hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, distance yourself from people (especially if they are coughing or exhibiting any symptoms of the virus). People can appear asymptomatic, so steering clear of large crowds is a must. With all that being said, we want God to allow this outbreak to pass over us, as well as our friends and loved ones. Can this be a lesson? What can we learn from this? These prayers/manifestations are not just for this pandemic, but for anything that does not give us a healthy and happy body.

  • I pray that this virus or any virus, disease, or illness of any kind passes over me
  • Anything that is not meant to go into my body will not infect me or come near me
  • I manifest healthiness for me, my friends, and my family
  • I pray for the doctors and scientists studying this epidemic
  • I manifest that they find a vaccine, as well as a cure
  • I pray for the strength of those who have already been infected
  • I manifest a quick and speedy recovery for those who are infected
  • I pray for anyone who has been exposed to any illness and let them not be affected by it
  • I manifest common sense for myself and others
  • I pray for those with anxiety; I pray they are able to stay calm
  • I manifest that everything will be under control sooner than later
  • I pray that people who still have to go to work and/or school stay safe and sound
  • I pray that people are able to find the supplies that they need to stay clean
  • I manifest people having enough to eat and drink
  • I pray for the people that live in shelters, in their cars, and on the streets
  • I pray for the people that have to quarantine in toxic situations with toxic people
  • I pray for people who don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from due to businesses being shut down
  • I manifest that the people traveling at this time will not be infected or spread anything to others
  • I pray for the small business owners that are being affected at this time
  • I manifest the economy not taking as big of a hit as it looks like it will
  • I manifest that there will be more people who are able to be tested for the Coronavirus
  • I pray that the events that have been postponed due to the illness spreading around are even better than they originally would have been
  • I manifest mental sanity for all
  • I manifest nothing else disastrous happening to our earth
  • I manifest people living long, healthy, and happy lives
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Journaling

Grieve At Your Own Pace

I tend to ponder in thought quite a bit, as many people do. The mind can take us to some pretty chasmic places; rewinding scenarios in our heads that make no sense, whether you have created them or not. Since Sunday, I have been doing this as I’m sure many other people have. This makes no sense…none at all. When unexpected and unexplainable situations occur, we try to rationalize what’s unfolding. We’re in disbelief and we’re in shock. We empathize with the victims and their families. We think about how something could have been prevented. We claim that what has happened is not real. We think about the situation if it were us in their shoes. We may link together other times when our feelings took a turn for the worst, making our experience that much more unbearable. Our emotions aren’t linear; in complete and utter shambles one day, feeling invincible the next, then back in shambles again. There is no clear way to express your emotions during certain situations.

Grieving is the multifaceted response typically for loss. Grieving has no standard image or action. When you have developed a deep bond with someone or something, it suddenly being taken away can feel like we lost apart of ourselves. I remember when my Grandmother passed. The moments during the initial shock differed so much. My Dad was in hysterics. He wasn’t in town at the time, so his wails and cries were transferred through the phone. My Mom, somewhat stoic in nature, sighed as she processed the passing, not because she was annoyed, but because she knew how impactful his mom (my Grandma) was in his life. My parents work well together. While my Dad starts with emotions first, he works through them so at the end of the day he can use his logic. My Mom is the opposite. Whatever she needs to do, she’ll get it done, only to process her emotions after it has been completed. They are able to lean on each other when the other needs to.

You may want to cry. You may want to scream your lungs out. I took a six hour nap yesterday after incessantly bawling. Some want to be left alone, while others want to be surrounded by close friends and family. As long as it’s not hurting you or anyone else…

…grieve the way you need to.

Loss can feel like a heart attack. You feel like you’ve stopped breathing, your heart palpitates, and tears may start to well at your eyes. It can feel like the end of the world. You feel numb; on earth, but not apart of it. It feels like your mind is dissolving. Memories flood back like a tsunami, and it almost feels like you will never be able to reach a homeostasis. Denial, isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance…sound familiar? These are most commonly known as the stages of grieving. Of course, most of us know what denial is; refusing to believe that whatever took place happened. Isolation commonly goes along with denial. We like to remove ourselves from other people’s company. Maybe it annoys you being around others who don’t feel the way you feel, and that’s okay. Maybe you just want to be alone because you just want to…that’s okay too. We may start to feel tension build up. Our muscles clench as you grit your teeth and try to ignore the seething displaced pain that’s felt. We may get mad at ourselves for responding the way we are when grieving. Maybe you’re upset because you physically lost something and you forgot for a brief moment that you’re human and things happen. Anger can be directed towards another person who was involved; a lot of the time, the person who was the victim if there is one. We may garner a sense of hope with bargaining. If I do this, then this will be the outcome. If I stop doing this, then they will come back and this, that, thus, and so. It’s like trying to make a deal with the universe. We may begin feeling overwhelmed and saddened at the fact that whatever it is we are going through…not much can be done to change the outcome. And once all of this passes, people can finally accept the changes that have come, and begin your journey of healing. Does it always start at denial? No. Maybe you get angry at first. Maybe you all of a sudden feel this wave of melancholic energy. There may be some stages that you don’t even experience, and then there may be some stages that are added to your personal grieving process. There isn’t a time frame to grieving either. It may take someone years to heal from something, while for others it may take a couple of days. Take as much time as you need.

What happened was tragic, and your brain might not be able to compute what has just taken place. Disconnect from the world for a little bit; take some time amongst yourself. Analyze and acknowledge your feelings…every single one. Take things slow for the day. Deep breaths; in through the nose and out the mouth. Move around; do yoga, exercise, take a walk…be around nature. There’s something calming about fresh air; being among the trees, the very vessels that give us oxygen. If it’s too cold to go outside, curl up with a warm blanket and an inspiring book. Go pick up a pen and write. Write everything that develops in your brain, no matter how random the thoughts may be. When bad thoughts begin to burgeon, stop their growth with words of love; for yourself and for others. Love, that’s the key thing. Love those whom you’re closest to, and don’t forget to love them out loud. Forgive yourself for your mistakes, and work on forgiving others for theirs. We have been reminded that life is inevitable and it is sudden. That doesn’t mean worry about when your life may end, it means celebrate it and all of its little wonders. You made it to class on time, congratulations! Your boss brought donuts to that 8 o’clock meeting, that’s amazing. The little things can be the most important and enjoyable parts of life. You’re alive, it’s okay to act like it.

Appreciate the time you have.

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Journaling

2020 Manifestations: New Blessings

First I want to give thanks to God and the universe for allowing myself to make it this far in my life. 2020, a new year…a new decade. Let 2020 be a spiritual and mental cleansing. Let goodness overflow and saturate the twelve months that make up this year. Let negativity be cast out and not infiltrate our spaces.

  • I manifest healing any trauma from the past in the new year
  • I manifest a stronger sense of self
  • I manifest getting rid of any insecure or doubtful thought I have in my mind about myself and my abilities
  • I manifest making better decisions in the new year and the years to come
  • I manifest happiness and joy
  • I manifest security in all ways possible
  • I manifest focus in everything I do
  • I manifest patience and perseverance within myself
  • I manifest discipline and establishing healthy boundaries as well as enforcing them
  • I manifest solid relationships in my life; whether romantic or platonic
  • I manifest letting go of things that no longer serve me
  • I manifest the greatest love for myself
  • I manifest a clean bill of health in the new year
  • I manifest breaking bad habits in the new year
  • I manifest clear, even, firm, and glowing skin
  • I manifest positive energy surrounding me at all times
  • I manifest all my goals and aspirations coming into fruition
  • I manifest maturity
  • I manifest wealth and good fortune
  • I manifest a greater love for myself
  • I manifest a sense of calmness and serenity
  • I manifest more opportunities to express my talents
  • I manifest protection
  • I manifest growth in all forms
  • I manifest happiness and prosperity
  • I manifest change for the better
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Journaling

You Made It…

Can you think back to December 31st, 2018? What were you praying and manifesting would happen in the year to come? I knew 2019 was going to be a culmination of growth and reflection. Well, I feel every year consists of those two things, but I don’t know…2019 was different. Think about it, 2019 is the last year of the decade; this was the year of completion. 2019 made us uncomfortable; it made us question how we treat people, our past decisions, and the ways in which we have let other’s interact with us. We were kind of lost going into this year. I can speak for myself when I say that 2019 was my wake up call. January 1st got right in my face and said “get it together!” 2019 dragged me by my heels and made me face reality. It was scary, it was harsh, but it was needed. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different response, and I was a lunatic. 2019 made me question who I was as a person and who I wanted to be. It made me question the energy I allowed to infiltrate my space, but with that being said…it made me ask myself why I was attracting this type of energy?

I spoke a lot to my younger self, and it was good to see her again. She was around the age of seven or eight. She had a braid on each side of her head with one in the back, and pink barrettes clipped to her scalp. She was chubby and cute, two things that she didn’t think could coexist with each other. She wanted someone to tell her that she was worthy. She wanted to be told that she was beautiful; that she was smart, talented, and intelligent. She wanted to be told that she didn’t need to lose thirty pounds in order to look good. She wanted to be told that her physical flaws aren’t flaws at all; they’re little idiosyncrasies that deserved to be celebrated. At the age of 21, I was glad that I was able to give that to her.

In 2019, I was able to confront a lot of things in my life that used to poke and prod at my self esteem. I highlighted the things that I love about myself, as well as the things I want to change within. I was able to forgive myself and others for the past, and leave those memories there. I have become more content with being alone and spending time with my thoughts. I am learning that I am my own soulmate. Myself and I were courting in 2019, and now we are in a relationship. When deeply in love with yourself, you move differently. I learned that everything is not a competition; just because I failed does not make me a failure. What’s meant for me will be for me, and I should speak positively over my life because it is precious. The things that I cannot control I will not give energy to, and I will be more careful with the things I can change.

I am so excited for 2020. I got a glimpse of what could come if I continue down the right path. I haven’t felt this hopeful in a long time. I feel confident in myself, and when the bouts of insecurity come, I know what to do to remind myself of my worth. I’m being more selfish this year. This new decade I pray will be the new emergence of the person I want to be. I will be a better woman, a better sister, daughter, granddaughter, friend, writer, student, artist…all the things that I consider myself, I will be better. I pray for a cleansing of the heart, mind, and soul. To anyone reading this, I pray that you tap into that potential that you know is there, and that you too become the best version of yourself.

Happy New Year

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Journaling

When I Walk To the Train Alone at Night

When I walk alone to the train at night, my mind begins to race. With each step that I take; one foot in front of the other, I think about the moments before my last breath. Will it be tonight? The days on the calendar bring about new opportunities and new experiences…but I fear what these new experiences entail. Some may call me dramatic, but for me this is a normal thought that my brain goes to…and it really shouldn’t be. As the sunlight hibernates and darkness saturates the almost evening sky, I become more cautious than I was before. Every figure begins to distort. The friendliest looking person could be a threat to my safety. When I walk alone to the train at night, I clutch my pepper spray inside my coat pocket. My pace begins to accelerate, and I begin to look behind me every few seconds; left and right. I take one earbud out of my ear so I can hear my surroundings, then I take the other one out because my paranoia gets the best of me. Still, even my senses don’t put me at ease. When I walk alone to the train at night, I think about the last goodbyes that I’ve said to my family. My Dad was working on his construction project in the basement, so he probably wouldn’t have been able to hear me. My Mom was asleep in the kitchen after finishing up dinner. My brother was upstairs, watching YouTube videos and playing video games…that would be the last memory that I would have of them. The last message that I sent to my friends would memorialize me. The videos and pictures saved of me in their phones would be the only way they could see me again, besides the images that they have stored in their memories.

I shouldn’t have to have these thoughts; so morbid and perturbed. The pathway to my destination should be smooth sailing. I shouldn’t have to think about my every move, because one slip up could cost me my life. I shouldn’t have to be on high alert all the time; analyzing every person that crosses my path. Sometimes I wonder if there were any times in my life where I was close…close to being harmed. Has anyone seen me walking down the street and thought that I was a good target? It makes my anxiety rise to an all time peak. What really goes on in the dark?

The Ruth George case really has me thinking. That beautiful young woman had a whole life ahead of her. She had a family that adored her, friends that cherished her, and all of that was taken away just because she didn’t want to converse with a man who was catcalling her. She went to UIC, my parents alma mater; a school that I was thinking of attending. I have walked past the very car park where her murder took place. I just don’t understand how you could kill someone over YOU’RE disrespect. She did not owe you her time, and certainly not her body. How could someone get that angry from rejection? You were so upset that it made you homicidal? How can someone be so evil? All she was doing was walking to her car. How many people have walked to their cars alone at night? That could’ve been anyone, unfortunately it happened to someone, and it happened to her.

The fear is so apparent it’s paralyzing. The prayers that have passed through my lips for my friends, fellow loved ones, and myself I’m afraid will fall flat. The world can be such a beautiful place, but it truly looks like turmoil and tragedy is prevailing. I don’t want it to win. Sex trafficking is real, and it happens all the time, and we are starting to realize how common this crime is. Be smart and be safe; always be aware of the things going on around you. Do what you need to do to protect yourself. Carry pepper spray or maybe even a little pocket knife. Make sure that the blade of the knife is within the law requirements. If tasers are legal in your area, I would keep that on me as well. In Chicago, tasers are illegal unless you have a license in the state. It has gotten to the point where more and more women are getting gun licenses, and I may become one of them. Guns scare me; they always have, but with what is going on, a firearm owner’s identification card doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. You should never stunt the lengths of your protection.

I don’t want to be another story on the news; The Chicago Tribune’s first page headliner. I don’t come home for hours, days, weeks, months…maybe I’m never found. I don’t want my family to go through the agony of putting on search parties, passing out flyers, losing half their minds wondering where I’ve gone, only for me to be somewhere with my throat slit inside of a dumpster in an alley way, or strangled in my car, or tossed to the side of the road like a used tissue; battered and bruised. Will they identify me by the red head wrap I wore, or the shoes on my feet that I bought a week before? How will you tell my story? I don’t want my family to have to plan my funeral because I didn’t acknowledge a guy for making an explicit comment about me and my body. I don’t want to be brutally attacked just because my “hello” becomes a response that corrupts your judgement. My kindness should not make me a target to be violated. My silence should not cause you to become irate.

 

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